2014/15 was the second year of the TCA restructuring phase and several milestones were achieved.
The new Constitution was voted in at a Special General Meeting staged by teleconference in late July 2014. This marked the start of the new structure with four categories of membership (individual, branch, affiliate and sponsor) and a revised Board structure.
The Annual General Meeting held in late November 2014 marked another milestone as the Interim Board was able to hand over to an inaugural new Board appointed/elected under the new Constitution.
TCA has now moved on from its emphasis on branches. Pleasingly, growth is now evident in the new affiliate member category. For example, the previous Western Australia branch converted into an affiliate member and most recently has rebranded as WA Forest Communities Network. It is encouraging to see this membership category steadily growing and we anticipate this will continue in the coming year. Affiliate membership enables incorporated groups which subscribe to the TCA charter, to link into its national umbrella network whilst retaining complete autonomy over their own management and activities. This fits our strongly held belief that local groups are the experts in their own communities; and they gain access to peer groups and opportunity for collective action through TCA’s national reach.
The industry is ever changing and it is important that TCA continuously adapts to match the times. The formalisation of branch/national office administration will be concluded in the near future for the handful of branches remaining operational. We thank all branch committees who have continued to carry out activities in their regions. For those who wish to do so, TCA can assist to make the transition across to an affiliate membership. If your region has changed and a branch is no longer operating we welcome former branch members as individual or family members. The membership subscription has not risen this year and we aim to keep it as affordable as possible. We try to maximise communications via email to keep costs down.
A member survey in early 2015 helped inform the Board in a planning session held in February 2015 in Sydney. Five priorities emerged and became the primary focus of TCA. These were: certification; advocacy; communications; networking and expanding the regional reach; and funding.
The TCA newsletter recommenced in New Year 2015, together with periodic information emails to improve our member communication. Efforts are currently underway to upgrade the website and Facebook presence.
TCA re-entered the policy and advocacy arena this year. We were involved in the NSW state election in response to a new koala national park policy proposal from the Opposition, which had no consultation at all with affected communities. TCA’s message was that koala habitat and the forestry industry can co-exist. TCA also communicated with federal senators and parliamentarians about reinstating native wood waste as an eligible feedstock in the renewable energy target (RET). Pleasingly, the combined impact of various groups advocating for this, resulted in success. Looking ahead, TCA will become more active in support of the communities that stand to be adversely affected by a proposed Victorian Great National Park, which some groups are promoting as necessary to protect the leadbeater’s possum. TCA supports the many sensible and responsible initiatives being pursued by industry in partnership with government agencies, to support the leadbeater’s possum. This relates to the implementation of recommendations made by the Leadbeater’s Possum Advisory Group. TCA is convinced from the evidence that a responsible forestry industry and the leadbeater’s possum can co-exist.
There are clearly opportunities to grow the forestry related industry – as it is truly a sustainable industry. Creating opportunities for industry growth and promoting the benefits of the industry to the Australian community are common concerns of members. These were key themes in TCA’s submission in response to the Strategic Issues Paper produced by the Forest Industry Advisory Council (FIAC). This FIAC paper addressed meeting the future demand for timber related products. In the submission TCA emphasised the importance of community engagement in this triple bottom line era. Industry is required to deliver environmental, economic and social outcomes and must retain community endorsement to operate successfully. Examples can be seen where this failed – the coal seam gas industry has some examples where upset communities literally wreak havoc on an industry. Social license is never a given in the public arena.
TCA is an active member of the Social Chamber of the Forest Stewardship Council Australia. In 2014/15 this was particularly focussed on providing feedback on the development of the new Australian national forest standard. This standard will become the blueprint for future FSC certification. National Coordinator Helen Murray was elected to the FSC Board (Social Chamber) in May 2014 , which restored TCA engagement to former levels.
TCA maintains membership of Australian Forest Standard and was pleased to participate in a marketing and communications workshop with the AFS Board at its AGM held in late 2014.
A key initiative for 2014/15 was the successful negotiation with ForestWorks for support to stage a series of workshops focusing on the skill of community engagement. This was launched in late March 2015 in Canberra. Expressions of interest were then opened and the preparation phase was completed in June with a national workshop series ready to commence in July 2015.
Another major initiative was the decision made in June 2015 to commence discussion with sponsor members regarding a three year funding Memorandum of Understanding for implementation in 2015/16. The aim is to achieve more funding certainty and free up time and capacity to focus on delivering outcomes for members rather than chasing funding.
TCA was represented at many events and forums this year across Australia – generally by the National Coordinator, Helen Murray. Helen continued to represent TCA on the NSW Forest Industry Task Force and presented at the National Timber Councils’ Association conference.
We thank all members for their support this year. We look forward to working more closely with the new groups of affiliate members and all other members in the coming year. A special thanks to the sponsor members who have showed faith in the ‘new’ TCA and have endorsed efforts to support regional communities all over Australia. Without this critical support TCA would not be able to operate.
There is a strong history of commitment by many loyal members of TCA over its three decades of operation. The Board pays tribute to all those who have put shoulder to the wheel and we take seriously this task of guiding the organisation in the current era.
I thank my fellow Board members and acknowledge that Lexie Hurford has decided not to stand again for election. We thank Lexie for her recent contribution as a Director, which drew on her prior years of active engagement with TCA communities in northern NSW.
On behalf of the Board I also thank our hardworking team – Helen Murray (National Coordinator) and Judy Pearce (Company Secretary) for their efforts and commitment, often working under pressure, with limited time and resources available.
We look back on a year of achievement and look forward to the year ahead.
Chairman of the Board (since April 2015).
Timber Communities Australia.